Because sci-fi (science fiction) and fantasy aren’t generally my go-tos for reading (which, given my love of comics and fantasy, may actually be a lie), I don’t pay much attention to the Hugo Awards. I’m aware of them and that, within the community, they are both important and prestigious, but I don’t tune into them. Therefore, I had no idea that for the last three years, two groups known as the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies were “fighting back” against the so-called liberalization of the Awards and that this year they had formed a bloc to defeat diverse nominees – thereby messing up the Awards in the process.
Quick recap: the Sad Puppies are a coalition of mostly white men who feel that the Awards (and, by extension, comics, fantasy, and sci-fi) are becoming too leftist, inclusive, and liberal. The Rabid Pappies are essentially the more rabid off-shoot of the coalition, and the ones more likely to harangue people for being SJWs (Social Justice Warriors) and ruining sci-fi. For three years in a row now, the Puppies (which I can’t even believe is a thing, the name is just so asinine) have been launching campaigns to try to push out the newcomers and set up their own bloc of nominees, basically to ensure that only “quality” (i.e., their favs/themselves) receive the Awards.
However, until this year, 2015, they hadn’t really succeeded in forming a bloc. Yes, straight white men were still dominating the nominations, but the finalists hadn’t been inundated with Puppies. This year, they were, but instead of being forced to vote for Puppy-backed nominees, most voters chose “No Award” – for five out of seventeen categories. What makes this even more astounding is that in the Awards’ 62-year run, “No Award” had only been chosen five times – ever. It’s just not very common for voters to choose “No Award” rather than a nominee.
While there are a few who contend that choosing these “No Award’s” doesn’t necessarily mean people were rejecting the Puppies, it’s nonetheless true that only one Puppy-backed nominee won (Guardians of the Galaxy). The voting group is also made up of about 19% Puppies, so if everyone voted in a bloc, at least 20% of voters would have had to choose “No Award” – which is a pretty large amount. It’s also true that these Awards saw quite a bit of diversity with G. Willow Wilson, a Muslim woman, winning Best Graphic Novel for Ms. Marvel, Wesley Chu winning the Joseph W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, Cixin Liu (and translator Ken Liu) winning Best Novel for The Three Body Problem, and Orphan Black winning Best Dramatic Presentation – Short. At the very least, that seems to indicate that the Puppies are not a silent “majority” being overtaken by an elitist minority that pushes forward bad work for a social and political agenda. Maybe people really do like well-written and well-made science fiction and fantasy that happens to be intersectional and created by women, people of color, and queer people.
It is disappointing that this kind of political grandstanding had to happen and that some within the science fiction, fantasy, and comics world won’t just accept that there’s room for non-white, non-straight, non-male work in the Awards. It smacks of sour grapes and shows that, for some die-hard fans, people of color, queer people, and women will never be accepted. But at least that group is small and at least the majority of people seem to realize that they’re speaking out of bigotry not excellence. That, at least, shows progress.